Jan 062016
 

This bit I’m embedding below is the first part in an interview that Isaac Asimov gave to Bill Moyers in 1988. He talks a bit about learning and education and how he’s taken those things on. In particular, he talks about how he has no training at all in astronomy and that all of his knowledge on the subject arose from his passion for learning and is all self taught. In contrast, he says, his formal training is in chemistry, but he thinks he knows too much about it and it doesn’t excite him anymore to learn about it. That’s an interesting concept to me. Is it possible to learn too much on a subject? Or, at least, learn so much on a subject that it loses it’s flair for the learner? I think he was on to something there. He goes on from there and talks about living life to it’s fullest, and enjoying life. This strikes me as a bit sad, considering that the interview was filmed just 4 years before his death. Here’s the video:

One other thing that strikes me is that it’s clear that Asimov truly gets enjoyment out of learning. I think that concept is lost on so many people. Not because they don’t like to learn, or enjoy to learn, but merely because they are trying to force themselves to learn something that they don’t have any interest or calling for. If people, instead, learned about things that they have an interest or calling for, I think there would be many more people who share Asimovs sentiment towards learning.

Sep 292011
 

Seth Godin had a very good piece on the history of the school system and where it has taken us, as well as a call for a revolution in the school system.

Our current system of teaching kids to sit in straight rows and obey instructions isn’t a coincidence–it was an investment in our economic future. The plan: trade short-term child labor wages for longer-term productivity by giving kids a head start in doing what they’re told.

This is part of the conclusion I’ve come to as well.  We do very little to cultivate creativity in our schools.  When the budget is on the line, the first things to the chopping block are the arts and sports.  We don’t dare cut programs that teach advanced mathematics or science as those are things that we have standardized testing for and it can effect our federal funding.  So, instead, we cut the very things that help our children become better humans.  Creativity is essential in many of our 21st century jobs.  Factory jobs and data entry positions can be done by lower wage workers in other countries.  Seth touches on this as well.

As long as we embrace (or even accept) standardized testing, fear of science, little attempt at teaching leadership and most of all, the bureaucratic imperative to turn education into a factory itself, we’re in big trouble.

The post-industrial revolution is here. Do you care enough to teach your kids to take advantage of it?

Moreover, do we care enough to help break the mold and teach our children to become 21st century humans?  We risk so much more than a loss of federal funding.  We risk our children’s future.

Jan 262011
 

Here’s the second piece of an incredible piece of an interview that Isaac Asimov gave to Bill Moyers. He goes much more into the future of learning and the future of education.  In the first few seconds of it, he very clearly describes the exact situation we have with the internet being as widely available as it is.  And then describes the resulting “one-to-one relationship for the many” where we all have individual access to the “gathered knowledge of the human species”.  What an incredible way of explaining it.  He even goes on to talk about the failing of the educational system.  I touched on a similar idea in a recent post, “Will you be Bigger When You are Older“, and the idea that the social norm is that once you’ve finished formal schooling, your education stops.  Asimov puts it pretty well in this interview when he says that “people think of education as something that they can finish.”  And then goes on about how it has become a right of passage to finish school and move on into adulthood, and how we end up with people “looking forward to no longer learning, and you make them ashamed, afterwords, of going back to learning.”  I think the best line is shortly thereafter.  “People don’t stop having sex just because they’ve turned 40.”  It’s an incredible way to compare it.  Many of us that are on this path to becoming 21st Century Humans have a real passion for learning new things and applying new knowledge.  Why, then, did many of us stop that learning and applying when we graduated?  For most, I would hypothesize, it was the rush into the “real world” to get a job and career and to make enough money to pay off those student loans and other debts that we racked up on our way. Watch the video:

One thing that keeps coming back to me with all this discussion of the educational system and the state of personal education, is that we’ve known it was broken, or, at least partially broken, for such a long time. This interview was recorded in 1988! It was plain enough then, as well. Can you imagine what would happen if more people became activists for a reformed educational system and for teaching our children to become life-long learners rather than the old 16 years and you’re out learners? What an incredible world that could be!

Jan 072011
 

While attending public school, I hated it. But, then, not many do like school when they are attending it. Now, as a father, whose children will soon begin to attend school, my thoughts are continually turned towards the constant stream of noise we hear about the failure of the school system. Our students are not scoring high enough in the SAT and ACT tests! Impending Disaster! [Cue the Fire Drill!]

Over the last few days, I’ve been watching a lot of the new TED talks that are available. Below, I’m embedding one that talks to the school systems and posits that they not only are failing, but that they are killing any creativity that there may be. In short, we begin our children off by telling them that they can be and do anything that they want to. And then we send them to school, where they are taught that they can’t do anything unless they score well on a test. What’s more, we abandon them to it. Aside from helping them figure out how quickly train A and train B will arrive at point C, we take no further interest in their education. We trust the school systems to teach them. But, what they are teaching them is not working.


http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html

I’ve always thought that a majority of the issue with the way our children behave and with the social problems (gangs, suicide, etc.) has far more to do with the involvement of the parents than any other factor. As parents, it is our responsibility to teach our children. It is our responsibility to foster their creativity.

They will guide humanity into the 21st century, and what better way than to do so as 21st Century Humans?  If you aren’t bringing your children along on this journey, not only are the schools failing, but so are you.

Jan 052011
 

In the mind of a child, the words bigger and older are synonymous. To them, getting older means that they also will get bigger.  For a child, being bigger opens up a world of opportunities.  Wherever they turn, they are met with restrictions based on their size.  They must be “this” tall to ride that ride.  Being bigger is their ticket to ride.

As we transfer into adulthood, this synonymy disappears.  Suddenly, all of those restrictions become based on our age.  You must be a certain age to vote, drink alcohol, and even retire.  At some point we may even be told we need to stop growing bigger, physically.  Suddenly, and drastically, the learned associations of bigger is better is replaced with older is better.

Too many of us, faced with this dilemma, stop all growth of any sort, and focus on aging instead.  Until, that is, we realize that our ability to age is finite.  At that point we begin doing what we can to stop the aging process, or reverse it even.  We find that the association of older is better is false, as well.  Older, suddenly, is worse.  And we can’t stop aging, so we come to the conclusion that we are getting worse.

What if, instead of abandoning the notion that all growth must end, we instead embrace the idea of growth in a non physical manner.  What if, we replace it with the notion that growing becomes a growth in spirit and in knowledge?

Growth doesn’t end with a certain age.  Despite the false idea that to grow means physical growth, we learn more in our childhood than at any other time in our lives.  By the time we have reached the age of five we have become fluent in at least one language, learned the proper usage of countless “tools”, attained most of our basic knowledge of social structure, and numerous other skills and abilities.

Let me ask you this; how many languages have you become fluent in since you turned five? How many of you can change the oil in your car or the memory in your computer? How many of you are “stuck” at your job because you lack the skills for anything else?

Growth isn’t something that should be abandoned at 18.  Instead, we should shift our focus from growing physically, to growing mentally.  We should shift from feeding our expanding waistlines to feeding our minds.

How will you “grow” this year?  What will you learn to expand your knowledge?  Will you learn a new language?  A new skill?  Or, will you remain content to merely be satisfied with what you know?